Tim McMahan became interested in pest control after his 5-month-old daughter developed large welts from mosquito bites. “She would wake up at night, miserable because of the bites,” he recalls.
The St. Louis, Missouri, resident delved into prevention methods, and he became so fascinated that he started Pestegic, a pest control company.
“They can transmit very serious infections,” notes Dr. Maya Muñoz Mahmood, a pediatrician, mom, and blogger. The insects can spread viruses and diseases, including Zika, West Nile, dengue, and malaria.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to eliminate mosquitoes from your property, McMahan notes. The winged insects can fly several miles to feed and reproduce. However, you can take proactive steps to avoid mosquito bites.
1. REMOVE STANDING WATER
Mosquitoes lay up to 100 eggs at a time in water, and they don’t need much—a quarter inch will do in some cases.
The sticky eggs, which look like black dirt, have staying power. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), if the eggs are left to dry out, they can survive up to eight months. However, the larvae only emerge when the eggs are submerged. So, clear any standing water from outdoor living areas. Don’t forget the gutters, McMahan adds.
2. TREAT STANDING WATER
Admittedly, many homeowners have standing water in their birdbaths, rain barrels, and ponds. Use larvicides in these locations, he says.
3. PUT A BARRIER BETWEEN YOU AND THE MOSQUITOES
Physical barriers keep all insects from being intrusive.
If you lack window screens because they obstruct the views, reconsider your decision. Screens allow you to enjoy the fresh air while keeping mosquitoes outside. If you already have screens, make sure they’re in good repair.
Outside, pop-up structures like the MonsterMeshPod keep you insect-free while enjoying the outdoors.
Your clothing also creates a barrier. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants minimize skin exposure, so mosquitoes can’t land for a quick bite.
4. USE CHEMICAL REPELLANTS
One of the best ways to repel mosquitoes is to apply products with DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). Low doses are safe for children two months and older, Mahmood says. Choose a product with no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET, according to Nemours Children’s Health. Base the concentration on how long the child will be outside, and don’t use a formula with sunscreen, which requires frequent applications.
Alternatively, try Picardin, a synthetic replica of piperine, the natural compound found in plants that produce black pepper. The product has been available in Europe and Australia since the '80s, but it’s only been marketed in the United States since 2005.
5. TRY PLANT-BASED REPELLANTS
Mix a few drops of lavender and eucalyptus oils in a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and spritz on your skin. You can also light candles with these oils in your seating areas, but the range of effectiveness is limited.
6. PLACE MOSQUITO-REPELLANT PLANTS AROUND THE HOME
Citronella, lemongrass, and lavender produce a citrusy aroma that appeals to humans but repels mosquitoes. Marigolds, mint, rosemary, basil, and lantana, are other options.
7. TURN TO TECHNOLOGY
There are several devices on the market that claim to reduce the insect population.
For instance, mosquito-repellent lamps emit ultraviolet light that attracts mosquitoes and captures them. There are also traps, which bait the female mosquitoes responsible for bites. Consider the size of the protected area when choosing a trap size. McMahon recommends Inzecto traps, developed by an entomologist.
“Just fill them up with water, put them in a shady place on your property, and they’ll attract and kill mosquitoes,” he says. It's recommended that you should replace these traps every three months.
You can also use an ultrasonic repellent, which emits a high-frequency noise that mosquitoes dislike.
8. TREAT YOUR YARD
Professional pest control companies can apply products that control mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers. “These products generally need to be applied every month and work best when combined with eliminating breeding areas and traps,” McMahan says.
Indeed, fighting a powerful foe smaller than your toe requires an arsenal.